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Atul Patankar

Bombay HC seeks Centre's stand on whether President comes under RTI

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Atul Patankar

As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on Jul 18, 2011


PANAJI: Bombay high court on Monday asked the Centre to file an affidavit as to whether top constitutional offices such as the President, chief justices and governors fall within the ambit of Right to Information Act.


The Goa bench of Bombay high court asked additional solicitor general, Vivek Tankha, who represented the Union to state the legal position regarding the President of India, chief justices and governors, while state advocate general Subodh Kantak will have to reply about position of the speaker of Legislative Assembly, vis a vis the RTI.


The matter will be heard next month. The bench of justices S A Bobde and F M Reis was hearing the petition filed by Goa Raj Bhavan, challenging the order of Goa State information commissioner who had asked the Raj Bhavan to submit certain information under the RTI Act, as demanded by activist Aires Rodrigues.


Tankha, appearing for Goa Raj Bhavan, argued that the president, governors, speaker and the Chief Justice of India as well as chief justices of high courts did not come within the Act's purview.


Certain posts had been consciously kept out of RTI's ambit, although they have been termed as a 'public authority' under the Constitution, he said.


To this, the judges observed that the case presented a novel situation.


The court asked the government to clarify the position. "We can't decide till we have proper information on the position of these authorities," judges said.

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This is just getting bizarre !


The individuals or the post they occupy - like President, Governor, Speaker, Chief Justice etc. are not under RTI. It is only the offices they occupy which are under RTI Act 2005.


Why are they confusing the whole issue by bringing in "competent authority" ? The competent authority, as defined in Sec 2(e) of the RTI Act is only for the specific purposes of the RTI Act. The phrase "competent authority" appears only 4 times in the whole Act:


Sec 2 (the definition)

Sec 8(1)(d)

Sec 8(1)(e)

Sec 28


Competent authority is regarding the power of that post/position to do certain things - as derived from the Constitution.

Public authority has to do with the office itself.


This issue was also amply clarified by the division bench of the Delhi HC in its order related to the assets of judges of the Supreme Court.

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